An Investigation of Students' Perceptions of Multicultural Education Experiences in a School of Education
Bhargava, Ambika, Hawley, Lisa D., Scott, Chaunda L., Stein, Mary, Phelps, Adelaide, Multicultural Education
Changing demographics and the need for professionals to understand perspectives and beliefs of others has led many to reflect on the extent to which diversity issues are integrated into undergraduate and graduate programs (Heuberger, Gerber, & Anderson, 1999). This is particularly true as teachers and helping professionals are considered catalysts of change. However, educators need specific knowledge, skills and attitudes to influence the world in which they live. Banks (2001) stated that it is only when teachers are empowered that they have the ability to influence their personal, social, political and economic worlds.
The past twenty years of educational research include studies that describes the importance of muliticultural education. However, Smith (1998) discussed not only an absence of multicultural education as a content knowledge base in teacher education programs, but also indicated the lack of a knowledge base among instructors and professors who teach such courses. Although Smith (1998) advocated culturally responsive pedagogy as a moral and ethical responsibility in the preparation of teachers, the integration of multicultural perspectives has been difficult to achieve.
Both the standards for the National Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programming (CACREP) require multicultural training as integral in the training of teachers and school counselors. Yet, there is a lack in the literature regarding the overall effectiveness of this training across schools of education and human services.
Nieto (2000) asserted that one must become a multicultural person before one can become a multicultural teacher -this involves a transformational re-education. First, she said, individuals must learn more about people and events about which they know little. This knowledge could come from literature, cultural activities, appropriate and accurate media outlets, or other sources. Second, individuals need to successfully traverse the process of confronting individual racism and bias that are often so deeply rooted as to be unconscious. The dissonance that often occurs in cultural training experiences requires a high level of expertise by professors in teacher and counselor training institutions.
Assessment of Efforts
Assessment of teacher education programs and efforts in infusing multicultural education reveal that we have a long way to go. Vacarr (2001) argued that while college campuses have focused on training teachers for working in diverse environments and transforming the curriculum to embody multiculturalism, a gap exists between conceptual understandings and the ability to respond to classroom challenges involving differences. Globetti, Globetti, Brown, and Smith's (1993) instrument measuring university students' multicultural awareness and sensitivity found that although students were aware of various subcultures on campus, they lacked sensitivity in terms of responding to differences.
Moreover, White students exhibited a lack of sensitivity toward African-Americans and were reluctant to interact with different racial minority groups. Rumill, Harshorn, and Gordon (1994) sought to determine the effect that stereotypes had on how university students rated students who were from different racial, ethnic, or religious groups than their own. They found that White college students judged their black peers' credentials on the basis of skin color. These results were attributed, in part, to the lack of knowledge and experiences many white college students have with people of different colors and cultures.
Rudney, Marxen, and Risku (1996) found that students overwhelmingly agreed on the importance of multicultural education in their role as teacher. However, their survey of preservice teachers' field placement experiences in an urban setting revealed that, "graduates were most likely to speak in generalities regarding the importance of meeting the needs of diverse student populations and least likely to provide examples of appropriate theory-based professional action" (p. …